For some people, the slightly gamy flavor of duck may be an acquired taste. I happen to love it! Duck is also a stellar source of protein—for reference only (I would never eat duck “diced!), 1 cup of diced duck contains approximately 30 grams of protein. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals that support thyroid health, including B vitamins, iron, zinc and selenium. The fattiness of duck is a big plus, providing a source of healthy saturated fat that nourishes your thyroid and adrenals.
Though duck is beloved in French and Chinese cuisines, Americans are decidedly less enthusiastic about eating it, consuming only 3/4 pound of duck annually per capita—compared to 55 pounds of chicken per person!!
Many people are skittish about eating duck because of its high fat content. Personally, I love eating the thick layer of fat that comes with magret de canard (duck breast). The fat imparts deep flavor and is both satisfying and satiating. By the way, the idea that saturated fat “causes” heart disease has been debunked; saturated fat does, in fact, confer health benefits.
Here is the lowdown on duck fat: it is roughly 51% monounsaturated fat, with 36% saturated fat and 14% polyunsaturated fat.
The high amount of monounsaturated fat and saturated fat ensures that duck fat remains stable during cooking. Unlike vegetable oils, like canola or corn oil, which tend to become oxidized when heated, forming harmful compounds in the process associated with cellular damage and heart disease, duck fat remains stable at high heat.
Although they may sound like a “healthy fat”, vegetable oils are, in fact, highly refined—treated with chemicals, bleached and deodorized. Duck fat, on the other hand, is simply rendered (melted) from the duck meat in a cast iron skillet, making it a very healthy and natural cooking fat.
One of my favorite spring meals is this spring salad—a colorful medley of seasonal leafy greens, cruciferous and pear, topped with slices of duck breast.
Five Spice Duck Breast Salad
Serves 2 to 4
For the duck
1 pound duck breast, scored on the fatty side
*I recommend D’Artagnan brand duck breast
1 to 2 teaspoons five spice powder
Celtic sea salt
For the salad
8 to 10 cups spring mix + 2 cups arugula
1 radish, thinly sliced
2 cup cooked broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
1/2 Bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced
Combine the following ingredients in a large (32 ounce) Pyrex measuring cup
or mixing bowl, whisking well:
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar (like Bragg’s)
3 tablespoons quality extra-virgin olive oil
Cooking the duck
Season duck breast with Celtic sea salt and 5-spice powder on both sides. Score the fat.
Over medium-high heat, sear the duck breast on its fatty side first, in a cast iron skillet (8 to 10 inches wide) for 1-1/2 minutes (be careful to brown, not burn!). Turn breast over and sear another 1-1/2 minutes.
Reduce heat to low. Cook the duck breast on its fatty side—cover skillet with a lid—for 5 minutes. Flip to its other side, and cook another 5 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 140 to 145 degrees. Be careful not to overcook. You want to aim for medium-rare.
Remove duck breast from the skillet and let rest 5-10 minutes. Slice.
Preparing the salad
While the duck is cooking, you can prepare the salad. Rinse the greens well and spin dry. If using frozen broccoli florets (the easiest way to work cruciferous vegetables into your diet!), prepare according to package instructions. they usually take 6 to 8 minutes to cook. Slice radish and pear.
Place salad greens, broccoli, radish slices and pear in a large serving bowl. Drizzle vinaigrette over the greens and toss well. Season with Celtic sea salt, to taste. Arrange duck breast slices over the greens.